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The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics recently released its report on the “lengthy commutes in Australia” which found that on average in Australia, people commute for approximately 29 minutes one way.

However, nearly a quarter of commuters, over two million Australians, can commute for 45 minutes or more one way. The majority of people in Australia travel to work by car, with 78% of people driving. 12% take public transport to work while 5% ride their bike or walk. Another 5% work from home. So what areas in Australia would increase your commute significantly?

We’re going to reveal…

woman and man on the bus

How long does it take Aussies to commute?

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development lists the different commuting distances across the states, cities and territories in Australia. The research estimates the average commuting distances for Australian capital cities, and other major cities and regions, based on the shortest path of road network distance.

Area Distance
Sydney 15km
Melbourne 14.6km
Brisbane 14.9km
Perth 14.9km
Adelaide 12.4km
Hobart 11.5km
Darwin 12.3km
ACT 11.5km

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2012 10.9 million Australians commuted to work or to full-time study with 7.4 million of those commutes taking place in capital cities. Lengthy commutes are generally linked to the size of the city you live in and commonly, the larger the city, the longer the commute. 77% of lengthy commutes are in the five largest cities in Australia; Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane account for approximately 5.5 million commutes.

A survey conducted by Regus on “how the daily commute just got longer” showed the time it took for commuters to get to work across the different states.  Sydney residents are spending nearly 31.7 minutes each way commuting while workers in Perth are spending 30 minutes each way followed by those living in Melbourne commuting for 29.5 minutes. Aussies living in Brisbane came at a close fourth with their commute taking 27.2 minutes. For places with shorter commutes, Adelaide residents are taking 21.8 minutes to get to work and those living in Canberra, a short 17.4 minute commute!

Most workers try to keep relatively busy on their mundane commute by making phone calls (64%), listening to music (58%) and catching up on the news (53%). Social media is also incorporated into the daily commute with 35% visiting and updating social media accounts with more females engaging in this activity (40%). Men would more likely call their friends and family while commuting compared to women (61%).

So what’s the most effective way to commute: driving, cycling, walking or using public transport?

How to choose the best mode of transport

Across Australia, we all commute differently to get to work in the quickest and easiest way possible. However, which mode of transport will get you there the fastest and by how much time? Is it worth adding on an extra three minutes to your commute to alleviate the stress of traffic? Or could cycling actually be more time efficient? Using Google Maps and The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development’s list of average commuter distances, we take a look at three bustling capital cities in Australia; Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and show the different modes of transportation that you could take to get to work.

Each map displays the quickest route to work on a Tuesday morning and is subject to change each day depending on traffic and road works.

In Sydney:

From Hampstead Road…

Car: driving will take you approximately 28 minutes to get to work (25 minutes without traffic)

Public transport: catching the train to work will take approximately 35 minutes (only 7 minutes more than driving)

Cycling: riding your bike to work will take you almost double the amount of time (1 hour)

From Middle Harbour Road…

Car: driving will take you approximately 25 minutes to get to work (21 minutes without traffic)

Public transport: catching the train to work will take approximately 34 minutes

Cycling: riding your bike to work will take you 52 minutes

From Phillip Bay…

Car: driving will take you approximately 27 minutes to get to work (23 minutes without traffic)

Public transport: catching the train to work will take double the amount of time at approximately 1 hour and 3 minutes

Cycling: riding your bike to work will take you 53 minutes (10 minutes less than catching the train or bus)

In Melbourne

From Coburg North…

Car: driving will take you approximately 28 minutes to get to work (24 minutes without traffic)

Public transport: catching the train to work will also take 28 minutes

Cycling: riding your bike to work will take you 38 minutes (10 minutes more than catching the train or driving your car)

From Sunshine West…

Car: driving will take you approximately 29 minutes to get to work (24 minutes without traffic)

Public transport: catching the train to work will take 33 minutes (only 4 minutes more than driving)

Cycling: riding your bike to work will take you 50 minutes

From Caulfield South…

Car: driving will take you approximately 33 minutes to get to work (26 minutes without traffic)

Public transport: catching the train or bus to work will only take 30 minutes (even less time than driving)

Cycling: riding your bike to work will take you 46 minutes

In Brisbane

From Carindale…

Car: driving will take you approximately 21 minutes to get to work (19 minutes without traffic)

Public transport: catching the bus to work will take 26 minutes (only 5 minutes more than driving)

Cycling: riding your bike to work will take you 50 minutes

From Aspley…

Car: driving will take you approximately 23 minutes to get to work (20 minutes without traffic)

Public transport: catching the bus to work will take 29 minutes (only 6 minutes more than driving)

Cycling: riding your bike to work will take you 51 minutes (nearly double the amount of time it takes to drive or catch public transport)

From Jindalee…

Car: driving will take you approximately 22 minutes to get to work (20 minutes without traffic)

Public transport: catching the bus to work will take 40 minutes

Cycling: riding your bike to work will take you just over an hour

With the large amount of time Aussies are taking commuting to work and back home on their bikes, in their cars and on the buses and trains, what kind of effect is this having on our mental and physical health?

How commuting affects your health

Lengthy commuting can have significant impacts on a person’s life and job satisfaction levels. The long hours we spend in the car or on the bus can affect us psychologically and physically, with higher levels of happiness linked with the amount of free time a person has and the level of flexibility within a job.

Driving can most certainly be a stressful task: with large amounts of traffic and the potential to be late to work, it does play a large part in our decreasing life satisfaction levels. Transportation research from McGill University discovered which type of commuter endured the most stress by going through three types of methods of transport: walkers, public transport users and drivers.

woman stressed in the car

The stresses of commuting

4,000 people were involved in the study and commuted to either work or school. The results showed that those who walked to work had the least stressful commute. The second best type of commute was amazingly enough, public transport, with subjects saying their most enjoyable part of the travelling was the walk to and from the train and bus. The most stressful mode of transport that was agreed upon by most participants was driving. This was mainly due to people having to consider the extra time it may take to get to work just in case something went wrong.

The Committee for Perth’s paper on how commuting can impact your health dives more deeply into how the stress response system can almost disrupt all human body processes. If commuting raises people’s stress levels, this can lead to a number of health problems such as anxiety, depression, heart disease and weight increases. According to an Adelaide study, one of the biggest impacts that long commuting has on Australians is weight gain. Using 800 participants over a period of five years, the research discovered that there was a large increase in weight across commuters who drove in cars for long periods of time. It further found that non-car commuters gained on average 1.26kg over the study period, occasional car commuters gained slightly more at 1.53kg and daily car commuters gained 2.18kg.

traffic jam

However, stress levels and weight have a remarkable downward trend when active commuting is involved. According to the Perth paper, those who walk or bike to work have been found to improve physical fitness and reduce cardiovascular risk. Cyclists and pedestrians have been found to reach 80% of their recommended daily activity levels just through commuting alone! Even those who take public transport seem to fulfil a lot of their activity level goals.

The costs of being a commuter

As per the research, many Australians drive to work or take public transport. This brings forward many other issues such as road safety, congestion and infrastructure changes. The Australian Automobile Association is campaigning for a better funding system for all forms of transport including both active and public transport. Paul Kindermann, Communications Manager of the AAA says that 1,200 Australians are killed on our roads annually and about 30,000 are injured.

“We have also highlighted the cost to Australians of land transport. Additionally, congestion is costing the Australian economy about $18 billion annually and according to Infrastructure Australia, this will rise to about $53 billion by 2031,” Mr Kindermann says.

women involved in car crash talking to police

Dangers commuters face

The AAA’s “National Road Safety Strategy” aims to reduce the number of road deaths and injuries by at least 30% by 2020. With 100 Australians killed on our roads every month and an annual cost of road trauma totaling to $27 billion, change has to take place for Australian commuters. It’s not only drivers who have to be wary on the roads either, with 168 pedestrians losing their lives last year on Australian roads and 228 motorcyclists also killed. Reducing the death toll for all types of commuters through safety strategies and recognising the need to make changes to the current transport regime is something that will make commuter life easier and safer.

Throwing money at our transport

Not only is safety an important aspect of commuting, but the Transport Affordability Index shows that Australian families are spending up to $22,000 every year just to commute. The Index bases its transport expenditure findings by analysing tax, tollways, public transport and finance costs in proportion to the average Australian household income. It demonstrated that approximately 13% of an average household budget in most capital cities was spent on transport alone:

  1. In Sydney, households face the highest commuter costs of any other city in Australia! A two car family household in Sydney spends $419 weekly on transport costs.
  2. Brisbane spends on average of $376 on transport weekly
  3. Melbourne spends $348 on transport weekly
  4. Brisbane residents spend the most on public transport according to the index, followed by Perth and then Sydney.
woman on the train

Looking at all capital cities and their transport expenses, the highest cost for a household was the loan payment of a new car followed by fuel, public transport, registration and licensing. Additionally, where tolls were involved, they comprised the second highest cost for people living in Sydney and the third highest cost for commuters in Melbourne.

Commuting has its many benefits and downsides in terms of travelling times, costs, safety, general wellbeing and health. Make sure to evaluate the fastest and most stress-free route you could take depending on where you’re residing. Commuting is not always a fun task to complete, but it doesn’t have to impact on your entire life.

Author comparethemarket.com.au

Launched in September of 2012, Comparethemarket.com.au – operated by Compare the Market Pty Ltd (CTM) – has teamed up with a range of Australia’s insurance providers so you can compare some of the latest deals, in one place, side-by-side. The team behind comparethemarket.com.au have experience in insurance, comparison, customer service and digital. If this was a stuffy corporate monologue, we’d tell you that we’re a bunch of subject matter experts specialising in User Experience, Customer Insights & Online Strategies. But to be honest, it’s just as accurate (and a whole lot easier) to say that we’re a bunch of people who want to make your experience with online comparison better. We pride ourselves on the fact that we’re forward-thinking, that we share an entrepreneurial spirit, and the fact that we like to have a bit of a laugh too. We’re all a bit too addicted to chocolate, but no one’s perfect, really.

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